Senate Bill 107 is on its way to the Governor’s desk for his signature and last week’s historic vote deserves a celebration!
SB107 finally removes the unconstitutional language from Montana law that labels gays and lesbians felons, punishable by fines of up to $50,000 and/or up to ten years in jail. It was ruled unconstitutional by the Montana Supreme Court in 1997, but remained on the state’s law books because of homophobia and fear. Last week it passed the Montana House on a 64-35 vote, after passing the Montana Senate 38-11.
The passage of SB107 is a “decades in the making” event that deserves some celebrating!
Come enjoy heavy hors d’oeuvres, music and fun sponsored by the Montana Human Rights Network, Planned Parenthood of Montana, ACLU of Montana, Pride Foundation, and generous personal donations from Senators Tom Facey, Christine Kaufmann, Pat and Carol Williams, Diane Sands, Jamee Greer and Linda Gryczan.
What: Former Felons Celebration When: Thursday, April 18th at 5:30pm Where: Jorgenson’s Ballroom, 1714 11th Ave. in Helena Cost: Free, although donations accepted!
** Governor Steve Bullock will sign Senate Bill 107 earlier that day in a special signing event in the Montana Capitol Building Rotunda at 12:30pm.
All supporters are welcome to attend!
And yes-I’ll be at that signing. No way I’d miss it…..
Yes, folks, the circus that was the 62nd Legislature of the State of Montana has been officially closed.
It was one of the most contentious sessions in memory- and one of the most publicized. Sadly, for Republicans, it was mostly at their expense. Republican lawmakers introduced the most ridiculed and bigoted legislation in Montana history- giving the state its fair share of national media attention. Only some of it good.
And don’t forget (as if I could) Janna Taylor’s ridiculous, ignorant and dangerous comments about HIV in the Montana prison system. In my opinion, the defining moment of the session. And that is a short list of all the craziness perpetuated at the time and expense of the people of Montana-a better list is here.
But I want to take a minute to thank the legislators who spent a great deal of their time and energy standing up for the rights of Montanans. Diane Sands, Carol Williams, Christine Kaufmann and Bryce Bennett all spent a lot of time defending equality and testifying against discrimination, bigotry and homophobia in this session. If you see any of them, thank them. Buy them a drink.
Hell, give them a kidney if they need one.
It is folks such as these- and all who testified, protested, blogged and wrote letters-, who keep our freedoms alive- and who stand in the face of political bigotry and chicanery. And let’s not forget Jamee Greer, Mike Wessler, Niki Zupanic and all the representatives of groups who lobbied for human equality- they get all the abuse, ridicule and sleepless nights, but not enough recognition. Drinks and kidneys for them, too.
Let’s give Carol Williams the last word (for now):
“I’m proud of our work.
With that, Mr. Chairman, I will wish you luck in the next session probably trying to fix a lot of the things we broke this time.”
Hot on the heels of my Dirty Dancing post yesterday, Charles Johnson of the Lee State Bureau (Billings Gazette, Missoulian, Independent Record, Montana Standard, Ravalli Republic) has posted an article outlining the complaints against House Judiciary Chair Ken Peterson, R-Billings. Excerpt:
Advocates for civil rights, human rights and abortion rights say they aren’t getting a fair shake from House Judiciary Chairman Ken Peterson, R-Billings, at public hearings.
They are critical of Peterson’s fairness in scheduling and running hearings, his limiting the ability of people to testify or at least state their names, and his failing to stop representatives or witnesses from making inflammatory comments such as calling abortion providers murderers and homosexuality an abomination.
For his part, Peterson, serving his fourth term in the Montana House of Representatives, defended how he runs the committee and dismissed the criticisms.
“I would say they’re absolutely wrong,” he said. “I try to be fair to everybody. That’s my goal. I’m an attorney. I know it’s very important that all parties be treated the same.”
Johnson’s article continues with numerous examples complaints of unfair treatment from Planned Parenthood, Civil Liberties Union of Montana and the Montana Human Rights Network- all known organizations that Republicans fear and despise. The shenanigans on display by the Judiciary leadership provides an opportunity for Republicans to use code words to invoke a familiar response to their followers, making over these human rights groups into bogeymen, conjuring up terror in the hearts of the ignorant and easily led. More:
“The chair is shutting down public comment, he’s shutting down hearings on bills that are life-and-death situations for Montanans,” (Stacy) Anderson (of Planned Parenthood of Montana) said, adding, “I think the civility has degraded, and I think some of the questions to people are degrading.”
…One committee member, Rep. Diane Sands, D-Missoula, said she believes Peterson violated House rules by not allowing people to come to the podium and at least state their name and their positions on four bills. She said she couldn’t recall this happening before, but figured out a way around it by reading to the committee the names on the sign-in sheet and having people stand as she called their names.
“It only takes a few minutes for people to stand and say their name,” Sands said. By not allowing people that courtesy, she said, “it shows disrespect to those people and to the legislative process.”
Diane Sands- a giant in Montana human rights as far as I’m concerned, is a shrewd and yet firmly convicted politician who has served this state- well beyond her constituency-with passion, distinction and strength. She’s well worth listening to. And Johnson’s article is worth reading in its entirety.
And Carol Williams, D-Missoula’s response for those of you who haven’t seen it: